You don't have to go on a space journey or wilderness trek to enjoy the nutritious benefits of freeze-dried foods. Freeze-drying removes the moisture from foods, decreasing their volume and weight while preserving their nutritional value. This gives foods a much longer shelf life and increases the ways they can be used.
Freeze-drying, or lyophilization, begins with flash-freezing, which rapidly subjects a food to extremely cold temperatures. Next, the food is placed in a vacuum. This draws out nearly all of the moisture, allowing the manufacturer to preserve the product. Finally, the food is packaged in an air-tight and moisture-proof packing, giving the food a longer shelf life.
Benefits for Manufacturers
Freeze-dried food weighs less and takes up less room than fresh food, making it less expensive to package, store and transport. This also makes a food more adaptable than its fresh counterpart. Cereal companies, for example, favor freeze-dried fruit as a mechanism for adding berries to their products. This allows them to maintain the integrity of the cereal and ensures that the berries will not deteriorate.
Freeze-drying removes negligible amounts of the naturally occurring nutrients in food. The Wild Backpacker website reports that freeze-dried foods lose water but few nutrients, while retaining most of their flavor. The biggest losses in nutrients through freeze-drying occur in vitamins C, A and E. However, the vitamin losses are mild to moderate. Fiber remains intact, as do anti-oxidants and phytochemicals, which are chemical compounds that may provide protective health benefits.
The American Institute for Cancer Research supports using freeze-dried fruits as a method of ensuring that you get anti-oxidants and phytochemicals that you might not otherwise get. If you usually don't eat enough fruit, for example, the freeze-dried cranberries in your morning cereal could provide nutrients that you miss elsewhere in your diet. Keep in mind that freeze-dried fruit is concentrated, so it will have more calories than a handful of fresh fruit.